Hyderabad: The Methodist Church, which has the world’s highest number of members attending it, is split wide open over recognising the marital rights of homosexuals.
A traditional Protestant church founded by John Wesley and Charles Wesley in 19th century, the Methodists, with presence in 187 countries, are on the verge of a split worldwide over the issue of same-sex marriages. On January 3, 2020, the denomination’s leadership announced a plan to split the church over what is being officially described as “fundamental differences”.
The church’s general conference is expected to vote on the plan in May later this year in the United States. Though the debate, and the split, is currently confined only to the United Methodist Church in the USA, it is reported that there is a lot of opposition from churches in Africa.
The plans would create a ‘Traditionalist Methodist’ denomination, where tho-se opposed to the acceptance of same-sex marriages would migrate, with the existing Methodist Church set to accept homosexual union, including marriage. While some of the Anglican churches have reformed with changing times to accept, recognise and even perform same-sex marriages in their churches, the Methodist has remained a traditional church which is not accepting of the marital union of homosexuals.
There are 2,460 congregations under the Methodist denomination with over 6,48,000 members in India, of which, over 350 churches come under the Hydera-bad regional conference.
When asked to speak about the development, M.A. Daniel, bishop, Methodist Church, Hyder-abad regional conference, said, “As a Methodist, we will go in accordance with the Bible. As a Christian believer, we will not go away from what the holy scripture of God says. I have not gone through the news of the United Methodist Church on this issue, so it is not proper for me to comment on this.”
Dr Rev. Gloria Ananda, advocate, High Court, said, “This is not permissible. The Methodist church should not allow such activities (as same sex marriages). I know that legally it is acceptable, when it comes to church, the Bible is the ultimate guide for Christians. The words of Jesus Christ are our only doctrine. It is written that man should be partnered with women. If this practice of same-sex marriage enters the church, it is immoral and unacceptable. The traditions of the church are holy and should not be compromised upon.”
Susanna Sulekha, MNC employee, said, “Being a gay or transgender is not one’s fault. Neither are they defected. It is God’s own creation. As a Christian, I believe God made everything with total perfection. Now regarding the question of their life and dreams, we should respect it. Society has already been unjust to them for ages. When gays form a union outside of marriage, we call it sin. Yet, when they are openly coming forwards, we hesitate to grant the respect of a legal marriage to that relationship. Christianity is a religion of love and compassion. When we fail to show a fellow human being respect, love and care, how can one face God on the judgement day?”
Ms Sulekha further said, “Let me remind you of an Indian Barrister when he went to Africa. He would attend a church as he had read many of Christ’s teachings, which deeply to-uched and inspired him.”
Church has seen schisms over doctrines
Noticing that the barrister was not a white man, an usher asked him to leave the church. The young barrister questioned him — if Jesus came to earth for the downtrodden, for outcasts, then why are you showing racial discrimination?
The lawyer thrown out of the church was Mahatma Gandhi. I can sense a similar scenario here. I strongly feel that the church should support gay marriages. If not church, who else will?”
John Wycliffe, a social worker, said, “This proposal to allow a more traditionalist church to be birthed is novel. Instead of going to courts over how to split assets, there is an upfront plan to provide ‘seed’ money to a new church. This is a very good way to amicably part, as opposed to in the past, when both sides used to rake up a lot of muck and bad mouthing of each other. This is not an issue for local churches in India, and whatever happens in America will remain in America.”
Mr Wycliffe further said, “Recently, we have seen the Anglican church split over ordination of gay pastors. Though the issue of LGBTQ was discussed in the United Methodist Church earlier, only a traditionalist position that ‘does not condone the practice of homosexuality’ found sanction. This has made a lot of liberal members uneasy.”
“Unity is a very difficult ideal to maintain. The church, down the ages, has seen schisms over doctrines and scriptural interpretations. Some splits have also happened over mundane issues like egos and disputed practices,” he added.
Rev Dr D.H. Paul, chairman, Board of Eccumenism, said, “Same-sex marriages are against God’s will and against God’s creation. Creation itself shows the creation of male and female. Man and women’s unity, that too within the institution of marriage, is holy. Apart from true Christian faith, even other faiths would not advocate same sex marriages.”